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Title: How People Actually Use Thermostats

Abstract

Residential thermostats have been a key element in controlling heating and cooling systems for over sixty years. However, today's modern programmable thermostats (PTs) are complicated and difficult for users to understand, leading to errors in operation and wasted energy. Four separate tests of usability were conducted in preparation for a larger study. These tests included personal interviews, an on-line survey, photographing actual thermostat settings, and measurements of ability to accomplish four tasks related to effective use of a PT. The interviews revealed that many occupants used the PT as an on-off switch and most demonstrated little knowledge of how to operate it. The on-line survey found that 89% of the respondents rarely or never used the PT to set a weekday or weekend program. The photographic survey (in low income homes) found that only 30% of the PTs were actually programmed. In the usability test, we found that we could quantify the difference in usability of two PTs as measured in time to accomplish tasks. Users accomplished the tasks in consistently shorter times with the touchscreen unit than with buttons. None of these studies are representative of the entire population of users but, together, they illustrate the importance of improvingmore » user interfaces in PTs.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
Environmental Energy Technologies Division
OSTI Identifier:
1048293
Report Number(s):
LBNL-4977E
TRN: US201216%%871
DOE Contract Number:  
DE-AC02-05CH11231
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. Pacific Grove, Calif.: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY AND ECONOMY; COOLING SYSTEMS; ENERGY EFFICIENCY; HEATING; INCOME; OCCUPANTS; THERMOSTATS; BUILDINGS; Programmable thermostat, user interface, energy conservation, usability test procedure, energy efficiency

Citation Formats

Meier, Alan, Aragon, Cecilia, Hurwitz, Becky, Mujumdar, Dhawal, Peffer, Therese, Perry, Daniel, and Pritoni, Marco. How People Actually Use Thermostats. United States: N. p., 2010. Web.
Meier, Alan, Aragon, Cecilia, Hurwitz, Becky, Mujumdar, Dhawal, Peffer, Therese, Perry, Daniel, & Pritoni, Marco. How People Actually Use Thermostats. United States.
Meier, Alan, Aragon, Cecilia, Hurwitz, Becky, Mujumdar, Dhawal, Peffer, Therese, Perry, Daniel, and Pritoni, Marco. Sun . "How People Actually Use Thermostats". United States. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1048293.
@article{osti_1048293,
title = {How People Actually Use Thermostats},
author = {Meier, Alan and Aragon, Cecilia and Hurwitz, Becky and Mujumdar, Dhawal and Peffer, Therese and Perry, Daniel and Pritoni, Marco},
abstractNote = {Residential thermostats have been a key element in controlling heating and cooling systems for over sixty years. However, today's modern programmable thermostats (PTs) are complicated and difficult for users to understand, leading to errors in operation and wasted energy. Four separate tests of usability were conducted in preparation for a larger study. These tests included personal interviews, an on-line survey, photographing actual thermostat settings, and measurements of ability to accomplish four tasks related to effective use of a PT. The interviews revealed that many occupants used the PT as an on-off switch and most demonstrated little knowledge of how to operate it. The on-line survey found that 89% of the respondents rarely or never used the PT to set a weekday or weekend program. The photographic survey (in low income homes) found that only 30% of the PTs were actually programmed. In the usability test, we found that we could quantify the difference in usability of two PTs as measured in time to accomplish tasks. Users accomplished the tasks in consistently shorter times with the touchscreen unit than with buttons. None of these studies are representative of the entire population of users but, together, they illustrate the importance of improving user interfaces in PTs.},
doi = {},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1048293}, journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2010},
month = {8}
}

Conference:
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